The idea of “Space Force” may sound like an ayahuasca vision that President Trump had after an all-night marathon of Battlestar Galactica. Though many people don’t realize it, it’s actually serious.
Part of the problem is that nobody seems to know what Space Force is for—including whoever made their recruitment video, which includes lines saying, “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”
The new chief of space operations, General John Raymond, has been trying to clear all this up. Like the time he said Space Force is “not a farce.” As to why Space Force isn’t doing the best job of marketing itself to the public, Raymond told reporters, “Space doesn't have a mother. You can't reach out and hug a satellite.”
But Space Force isn’t really about war in space. It’s about war on Earth.
Military planners here on terra firma look at space as the ultimate high ground. If you have enough satellites up there—you can see everything happening down here. They’re the eyes and ears of a modern military, used for everything from spying on terrorist camps to piloting drones. Without them, America’s high-tech military isn't so high-tech anymore, with no precision-guided … anything. And that would be particularly unfortunate for the U.S., which relies more on satellites than any other country.
A lot of experts predict that whenever the next big conflict comes, each side will start by trying to take out the other guy’s satellites. The U.S., Russia, and China are all thought to have the ability to blind each others’ satellites by zapping them from Earth with powerful lasers.
The Guardians of Space Force aren’t the only ones using satellites. You are too. A lot.
You’re probably reading this on a device connected to a Space Force satellite system right now—GPS is just a couple dozen satellites launched by the U.S. military that now belongs to Space Force.
But there’s still the question of whether setting up a new branch of the military to deal with this stuff was a good idea in the first place. Critics argue it’s a bad idea, because it sends a needlessly provocative message to other countries. And Space Force isn’t really making anything new yet. It’s just pulling together the space programs that already existed from the Air Force, Army, and Navy under one big, Trump-y label.
But now that it’s been passed by Congress and signed into law, President Joe Biden is stuck with it, whether he likes it or not. And it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that encourages the kind of aggression in space that it’s supposed to tamp down.